Islamic Studies in the Liberal Arts Tradition at Zaytuna College
Zaytuna College is committed to demonstrating, through practice, teaching, and the free exchange of ideas, Islam’s critical role in the modern world. At the heart of our mission is the Islamic legal, intellectual, and spiritual tradition, which we believe to be derived from the Qur’an and the words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. We believe that this knowledge, distilled by analytical and interpretive tools developed by some of the finest minds in history, has been passed on by successive generations of believers.
We believe that one of the primary purposes of Islamic education today is to keep that scholarly tradition alive, and to ensure that it remains accessible as a living, holistic reality, not only for Muslims, but also for people of other faiths. Zaytuna College aspires to revive the sciences of Islam and to position this nuanced, text-based tradition in its central place in modern Islamic education.
In order to do this, Zaytuna College has developed a unique curriculum for a Bachelor’s program that relies on various pedagogical approaches such as selective memorization and critical analysis. The curriculum emphasizes key foundational texts; an in-depth examination of critical methodological issues; a solid command of the Arabic language; a familiarity with the most important Islamic sciences; and a firm grounding in the tools of learning with an emphasis on the qualitative elements of the traditional liberal arts. This curriculum also fulfills the requirements established by the most rigorous accrediting organizations of American higher education.
Our educational philosophy also reflects our belief that the ability of a student to become part of a living intellectual and spiritual tradition is enhanced by an ongoing involvement with an active community of believers. As our students learn, they are integrated into the life of the surrounding Muslim community. They deliver lectures and sermons; they lead and participate in religious gatherings; they provide counsel, especially for the youth of the community; and they are exposed to the full range of daily trials and triumphs that characterize human society.
It is the sincere prayer of Zaytuna College that by bringing together these many elements, rooted in disparate academic universes, we will be able to produce the future leaders, imams, scholars, and citizens needed to serve a rapidly growing Muslim community and an ever-changing America.
Educational Philosophy back to top
The idea of Zaytuna may be captured in a few phrases: As God’s creation, we are all interconnected; through our diverse cultural histories, we discover our shared humanity and dream of a common future; our collective problems are, at their root, both spiritual and philosophical; the Islamic intellectual legacy begs to be integrated into a global conversation on great ideas shaping our planet; a well-designed college education will change lives and transform the world.
In a seminal essay on Liberal Education, Mark van Doren tells us: “The student who can begin early in his life to think of things as connected, even if he revises his view with every succeeding year, has begun the life of learning.” This spirit captures an essential aspect of Zaytuna College’s academic curriculum. The courses are designed collectively by a diverse faculty who bring unique strengths and perspectives to the conversation. Courses in law speak to concerns in Ethics; discussions in the Qur’an class spill over into astronomy; tensions in the freshman seminar are resolved in a class on spiritual psychology and cosmology; the utility and limits of logic are explored in philosophic theology and the history of science; the power of the imagination is unleashed in literature; the “rise and fall of civilizations” is reassessed through a study of world religions and contemporary Islamic thought; mastery of grammar and rhetoric in English and Arabic propels us through great ideas embedded in timeless texts.
Why Study at Zaytuna College? back to top
Choosing a college is a momentous decision for students and their parents. Parents want to know that their children are receiving a quality education and that they are being competently prepared for a productive future. Students want to feel confident that they are receiving an education that will give them an advantage in the professional world, while allowing them to explore issues and ideas that will enrich their lives in ways tangible and intangible. At Zaytuna College, we are sensitive to these concerns.
Our comprehensive curriculum has been designed to ensure that our students receive an education that exposes them to the best of a vibrant Muslim intellectual tradition, thereby grounding them in the best traditions of the past. It also incorporates the most relevant aspects of modern social science and humanities courses, thereby providing students with a firm footing in the present and a basis for looking at the future with clarity and vision.
We are confident that a Zaytuna College education will prepare our students to effectively participate in a full array of occupations and professions. We envision our graduates working as Muslim community and religious leaders, succeeding in graduate and professional schools, entering into public service, and becoming inspiring Islamic Studies teachers in a rapidly expanding network of Muslim schools in North America and elsewhere in the Western world. We believe our graduates will bring compassion, insight, and a fresh perspective to nonprofit and NGO sectors, as well as into commercial and business endeavors.
At Zaytuna College, we provide an academic environment that fosters a productive and invigorating meeting of the hearts as a means to enrich and nourish the mind. We want everyone’s children to realize that they are not the means of someone else’s ends, but rather ends in themselves. We invite them to think critically about the forces that shape all of our lives. We invite them to dream of different possibilities. We invite them to dream of a different now, and a different tomorrow. As Zaytuna students graduate from their studies, these dreams will penetrate the professions they pursue, the classrooms they teach, the families they raise, the communities they inhabit, the associations they form, the charities they support, the policies they draft, and the wars they choose to fight.
At Zaytuna, we educate people not simply to “make a living,” we inspire them to “make a life worth living.” Every lawyer has a heart. Every chaplain has passions. Every teacher has something to learn. Every doctor faces uncertainty. Every merchant confronts dilemmas. Everybody makes mistakes, but we all strive to better ourselves. Regardless of where our graduates go, we help them see themselves as, first-and-foremost, part of a shared humanity. Students leave with the conviction that our human flaws are overcome through lives of service. What we offer is a civilizational vision, and our task is generational.
Academics FAQs back to top